You wait. I recommend that you forget you ever applied to graduate school. If you get in somewhere, they will call you up or send you an email in late February – mid March. You don’t have to impulsively check their website or anything; if they admit you then they will let you know. If you insist on being obsessive about the entire process (like I was) then there is an entire community of like minded philosophy grad school hopefuls out there with whom you can share your misery.
The most common thing people obsess about is when there is admissions activity. In order to put this information in the public domain (schools don’t just announce to the entire world when they have contacted people) there is a admissions results page at a site called thegradcafe.com. Here people post when there are informed by schools that they have been accepted or rejected. Many people reason that if there are rejections posted, and you haven’t gotten one, then maybe the school will let you know very soon that you have been accepted. Conversely, if there are acceptances posted and you are still sitting with nothing, then you are shit out of luck. However, things are rarely so simple; often times schools send out rejections in waves, so even if you haven’t been rejected yet, yours might be coming in a few days (this happened to me at several schools). Some schools also don’t seem to inform everyone that they have been admitted in one day and at many schools being high on a waitlist gives you a very good chance of being admitted; so, one should not necessarily despair until a rejection is official. That said, I found that schools typically admitted and waitlisted people all at once and took their sweet time letting rejects know. So, if you haven’t heard anything then you are probably out of luck.
There is also a livejournal site called whogotin, with a special section for philosophy. It seems that philosophy students use this site a lot more than all other subjects, so during the peak of admissions activity there is constant activity here. Whereas thegradcafe simply has a list of activity, whogotin is a discussion forum; so, things become a bit more interesting. It is probably best to just visit the site to get a good idea of what it is all about; you will certainly see what happens when otherwise reasonable people are stressed to the point where madness begins to set in.
On the more practical side, schools will start letting you know about your admissions status around from mid- February until about mid-March. If you haven’t heard from a school by the middle of March then this generally means you have been rejected but, of course, there are always some stragglers. You then have until April 15th to let them know if you are going to accept their admissions and funding offer; most people visit the schools they have been admitted to and many schools will help cover the costs of such a trip. However, things might get hairy if you have been admitted to a school but wait-listed at a school you would rather attend; this seems to be a common phenomenon and means that you might have to stay home sitting by your phone on the 15th in case you get a call with an offer from the more desirable school. It is also a good idea to be in contact with all the schools involved, so that everyone is aware of what is going on. And for the love of God, if you do get accepted to a school such that others you have been accepted at are no longer viable options for you, then withdraw from those other schools as soon as possible. Remember that REAL people are sitting on the waitlists at other schools biting their fingernails.
This is all I have to say about grad school admissions. I hope it helps someone, though perhaps it won’t. Oh well.